Mr. Lopez most recently signed a deal with Mercedes-Benz that landed him a new E500 in exchange for quarterly marketing appearances and is eyeing deals with Fiesta Markets, Colgate-Palmolive, and Papa John's Pizza as potential endorsement partners as well, according to agent Jean Lopez, who also is Mr. Lopez's coach and brother.
"There are very few athletes who win gold medals and can speak Spanish," Steven Lopez says. "I think that is something businesses can capitalize on, and I can capitalize on as well."
John Castello, executive vice-president of merchandising and marketing for The Home Depot, says Mr. Lopez's bilingual abilities are key to his appeal and a large part of the way he is marketed. "The Home Depot recognized Steven's [ability] to communicate with the Hispanic market via targeted Spanish-language media properties," Mr. Castello says. "The Hispanic media has responded favorably to Steven, particularly because he is bilingual."
More than 60 percent of the medals won by Hispanic athletes in the past three Summer Games have been gold. But athletic achievement isn't the only factor in getting endorsement deals, Mr. Andrews says.
"To really make any kind of significant money it takes winning a gold medal, [but] there are enough medalists that they are not going to all get marketing deals," says Mr. Andrews. "There is such an emphasis on multicultural and multiethnic marketing right now that those athletes with different ethnic backgrounds definitely have a greater advantage."
Jessica Mendoza took home gold as part of the U.S. women's softball squad in Athens.
That advantage carries even more weight considering Telemundo's recent success with the first-ever Spanish-language U.S. broadcast of the Olympics. The network offered 174 hours of Olympic programming, reaching 12.2 million total viewers in 46 percent of all Hispanic households in the United States.
Other athletes capitalizing on corporate marketing deals are softball gold medalists Jessica Mendoza and Lisa Fernandez. Ms. Mendoza, a 24-year-old phenom with two degrees from Stanford, signed a signature glove and bat line deal with Louisville Slugger in 2002 and has an apparel and footwear deal with Adidas.
It was Ms. Fernandez, a groundbreaker in the world of female endorsements, who paved the way for athletes like Ms. Mendoza. Ms. Fernandez has landed nine endorsement deals and was one of the first women to launch her own line of bats with Louisville Slugger and a signature shoe with Reebok. Ms. Fernandez is currently the marquee player of the Ladies Professional Fast Pitch Association and is a partial owner of her namesake softball league, The Lisa Fernandez Fastpitch Championships.
While a handful of Olympic athletes are capitalizing on Hispanic market appeal now, experts say the real test will come as they try to outlast other medalists and win the attention of marketers and companies for years to come.
"There's a scarcity in [Hispanic athletes] and growing demand," says Mr. Swangard. "There are going to be plenty of companies chasing opportunities to change the market."
|Hispanic Summer Gold Medals 1996-2004|
|Hispanic Athletes||Hispanic Medals||Hispanic Gold||% Gold|
|Source: Hispanic Business, based on U.S. Olympic Committee data|
View a complete list of Hispanic Summer Olympic Medal Winners 1996-2004